Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Commission on Human Rights 1995


Intervention by Humanitarian Law Project, International Educational Development

Mr.Chairman, the armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka and the continuing violations of humanitarian law has caused us deep and grave concern during the past several years.

You will recall that in March 1987, the Commission recalling its decision 1984/11 of 14 March 1984 called upon the parties to the armed conflict to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law and 'to pursue a negotiated political solution, based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms'.

In February 1992, the Chairman of the Commission expressed the 'serious concern' of the Commission over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and urged the government of Sri Lanka to pursue a negotiated political solution with all parties, 'based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, leading to a durable peace in the north and the east of the country.'

Mr.Chairman, an year later in February 1993, at the 49th Sessions of the Commission, we were one of 15 non governmental organisations who urged that there was an 'urgent need for the international community to recognise that the Tamil population of the North and East of the island were a people with the right to freely choose their political status' and that such recognition would prepare the ground for the resolution of a conflict which had taken such a heavy toll in human lives and suffering during the past several years.'

Last year, at the 50th Sessions of the Commission, we were one of 17 non governmental organisations who expressed their deep concern that the the economic blockade imposed on the Tamil homeland continued and that Tamil civilians continued to be subject to indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment by the Sri Lanka armed forces. We urged the need to recognise that 'the deep divisions between the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil people cannot be resolved by the use of force against Tamil resistance.'

Mr.Chairman, we, therefore, welcome the recent initiatives taken by the newly elected Sri Lanka government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to end the armed conflict in the island. We welcome, in particular, the declaration of cessation of hostilities signed by Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Pirabaharan on 5 January 1995 and the commencement of talks between the two parties to the armed conflict with a view to establishing a stable, durable and just peace in the island.

We also welcome the decision taken by the Sri Lanka government in August last year to partially lift the economic blockade on the Tamil homeland and thereby create a climate conducive to the peace process.

However, we regret that the Sri Lanka government has uptodate failed to remove the blockade in full and that several essential items continue to be prohibited. Again, the Tamil homeland in the North continues without electricity and even those items which were taken off the prohibited list have not, in fact, been permitted by the Sri Lanka military to be freely brought to the Tamil homeland.

We are concerned to note that over the years a particularly belligerent element appears to have grown within the officer corps of the Sri Lanka armed forces with a vested interest in perpetuating the war.

Here, we are encouraged by the statement made by Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga in October last year that whilst the previous Sri Lanka government did not have sufficient control of the army, she, on the other hand, will not permit the army to do what they think is right.

The two Covenants of international human rights law declare that all people have the right to self determination. Self determination is deeply rooted in the concept of human dignity and has at its heart a people's wish to be active agents of their own history. It is the other side of the coin of democracy.

The International Court of Justice in the Western Sahara Case (ICJ Reports 1975) identified the elements of a 'people' as subjective and objective national identification with a relationship to identifiable territory.

Mr. Chairman, the Tamil people have lived from ancient times within relatively well defined geographical boundaries in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, they share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago. They have, in addition, acquired a subjective political consciousness of oneness, by their life together in their traditional homeland and by their struggle against oppressive alien Sinhala rule. They clearly constitute a 'people' with the right to self determination.

Mr. Chairman, we urge that the Secretary General, should, as a matter of urgency, invoke his good offices with the aim of furthering the peace process in the island of Sri Lanka by urging upon the Sri Lanka government the imperative need

1.to be steadfast in its recognition that a military solution is not an option and that a war against a people struggling to assert their right to self determination is unlawful and unjust and that such a war is unwinnable because it is unlawful and unjust; and

2.to secure a political solution which respects the existence of the Tamil homeland in the NorthEast of the island of Sri Lanka and which also recognises the right of the Tamil people to determine their political status.

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